I checked Hotels.com, Cheapohotels.com, CheapestHotelsInThePlanet.com – you name it. The best I could get for a TWO star hotel room and up ranged from between $331 to $850 a night. And every review of the rooms was horrid.
This pretty much sums up Miami’s Winter Music Conference in a nutshell.
I am now one of thousands of smarter House lovers who have abandoned this wreck of a conference and moved on to greener pastures – Movement in Detroit, SXSW in Austin and ADE in Amsterdam to name a few growing festivals that show more promise, more talent and less price gouging than the once-glorious WMC.
What WMC Used To Be
The Winter Music Conference officially began in 1985, aimed at professionals in the recording industry such as DJs, artists, record labels, producers, promoters, radio and media. Throughout the course of approximately one week, you can engage yourself in workshops, panels and parties parties parties.
I’ve heard the stories of WMCs of yesteryear, the incredible events, the camaraderie. How you could walk down Collins Avenue and run into Louie Vega, your favorite local DJ and Judy Weinstein all within three blocks. How one gig in a tiny hotel lobby could get you connections for future gigs overseas. How a demo could get you a sweet record deal and prospective collaborations with your favorite producers. The networking possibilities were endless! And need I add the gorgeous weather?
What WMC Actually Is
When the term “WMC” comes up, warm fuzzy feelings of sunshine no longer fill my spirit. My visceral reaction is one of stress.
First and foremost, it’s financial stress. It’s impossible to overstate how incredibly expensive WMC has become, as seemingly every establishment with a cash register in town doubles the price of everything. Flights are ridiculously expensive. Hotels know that this is the time of year to jack up their worn out rooms that haven’t been upgraded since Lucy & Ricky Ricardo spent their honeymoon there into magical “four star boutique hotels” commanding prices comparable to a luxury suite in New York City. There’s usually a skeletal staff at best, with receptionists that might not blink if you were bleeding to death. And good luck getting a working elevator.
Hospitality and customer service are alien concepts in South Beach. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single friendly cab driver in the 200+ cab rides I’ve taken around Miami. They’ll bark at you if you dare ask for a local trip that will net them less than a $30 fare. There’s the obligatory whirlwind tours of Miami to rev up the meter. I’ve even had drivers tell my friends to shut up in the back seat so they can talk on their phone. True story: I once asked a cab driver to take me somewhere 10 minutes away. He yelled “Get the fuck out of here!” and nearly ran me over. Out of all the creatures that exist in South Beach, cab drivers are the absolute worst things to crawl out of a sewer.
As with all beachside communities, the whole point is to relax, enjoy the slower pace, bask in the tranquillity. And that’s what you’ll get. They’ve mastered the art of lethargy so well that you’d be lucky if you ever got a waiter to come to your table. They know you have no choice. Frankly, they don’t care.
Water is Free. The Bottle is $15.
So forget the minor inconveniences of flight, hotel and travel. We’re here to party and see some of the world’s biggest DJs! The cover is $40? No problem, I’m here to support!
Drinks are another story. Clubs will jack up prices for WMC to numbers beyond the most exclusive resorts in the world. Like $15 for a bottle of water. Or $25 for a vodka soda. And for those that didn’t know, all food and beverage tabs come with a built-in service charge. Every receipt also has a prominent line saying “additional tip” just to make you feel like an asshole if you don’t give that extra. By the time a party is done (and mind you, with so many events so close together you can hit up four or five parties a night), you’ll have paid enough to put a mortgage down on your house.
Attendance-wise, the parties at WMC have been dwindling at an alarming rate anyway. Events that used to boast lines running outside the door had more service staff than actual clientele in them last time I checked. It’s pretty depressing. What confuses me is that with less and less people in attendance, how are the prices getting higher?
If you happen to be a promoter that throws events during WMC, you know the absolute frustration you have to go through. Clubs open and close within a matter of months, even weeks. The management group that signed your venue contract may disappear by the time you make the follow-up call. There is zero stability in South Beach’s club life, so a signed contract for a party set up months in advance will have you biting your nails up until the evening of the event because anything can (and often will) happen. Returned calls or basic follow up is not in their business etiquette. They’ll get to you when they get to you, even if you’re forking over thousands of dollars in rental fees or bar guarantees.
South Beach has also decided that rather than maximizing its service capabilities by spreading out all their different festivals across the calendar, they’ll instead cram them all in within the same fourteen day period. Ultra, Miami Music Week, WMC and God knows what Hip-Hop death trap they have during the weekends all coincide into one cacophonous disaster. So you have four times more people fighting over a finite number of flights, hotel rooms and condos. How that makes any economic sense for people throwing the events is beyond my comprehension. This inexplicable decision also ensure you that the streets will be littered with all kinds of commercial clubland misery.
The Weekend Nightmare
If you do decide to hit up WMC, do yourself a favor and go during the week when it’s still relatively sane. By the time Friday night comes around, forget about it. Picture a combination of Jersey Shore, Mardi Gras, a Lil Wayne video and the Kardashians on the E! Channel. The streets are impassable, littered with party people, parking lot traffic, booze and enough blaring sound systems to destroy the ecosystem. You will have no idea what hit you. Look up at the bigger marquees and you will actually see Pauly D and Paris Hilton headlining! They also don’t have lines in front of the clubs. They have masses of people surrounding the front so you have no idea how anyone gets in. Be careful when walking by: the muscle boys are roided up, amped and ready to fight.
The Love Is Gone
By the time you step off the plane back to your home city, you will be a broke, partied-out zombie with at best a decent tan. And you will ask yourself, was it worth it? Well, it’s like being married to a woman that is getting meaner, fatter and more miserable. The love affair is gone.